1. Kentucky has been making legitimate strides as a program under Mark Stoops. They’ve won two bowl games in a row, appeared in four consecutive bowl games and haven’t finished under .500 since 2015. Do you expect that trend to continue in 2020?
Julian Mitchell: I do expect it to continue. This squad has a lot of returners on both sides of the ball, but they’re proven quality returners. The main area of concern on the roster is depth at linebacker. Other than that, the Wildcats are as deep as they’ve ever been perhaps in school history.
Chris Novak: I tend to agree with Julian. The team is just loaded in a lot of areas that will allow them to thrive this season. Perhaps they won’t be better than Florida and Georgia in the SEC East, but they will certainly give teams fits and more than likely finish in the top half of the division.
Josh Rothenberg: I don’t see why not. They lose some big names in Lynn Bowden Jr. and Kash Daniel but Mark Stoops has built up the depth within the program in order to withstand losses like these. If Terry Wilson can keep building on his performances pre-injury, there is no reason they shouldn’t find themself either finishing 4th or perhaps even 3rd in the SEC East.
2. Gone is Lynn Bowden Jr., Kentucky’s dynamo playmaker. Who do you see stepping up on offense to produce this season?
Julian Mitchell: The rushing attack that led the SEC last season is still good hands with the stable of A.J. Rose, Kavosiey Smoke and Chris Rodriguez at tailback. All three rushed for at least 500 yards last season and combined for 6.4 YPC behind an offensive line that will still be elite in 2020. So for me, the breakout player will be from the passing attack and it will be senior receiver, Josh Ali. He managed to stand out last season when barely any passes were thrown.
Chris Novak: Once again, I will agree with Julian. Josh Ali is definitely someone who could break out. Terry Wilson will almost certainly enjoy tossing the pigskin to him in the opportunities he gets to. He has shown plenty of promise so far in his UK career, and while the rushing attack will get all of the headlines and attention, I would expect to see Ali give himself some notoriety.
Josh Rothenberg: Ali is the best option as someone who stands to see their stats increase the most considering UK will be running out an actual quarterback this year but I’m going to go with Kavosiey Smoke. Running behind a good offensive line and with what should be a better passing game, there should be even more running lanes for Smoke to exploit for big plays.
3. Kentucky has sent some really good players from their defense to the NFL. This is an extremely experienced group on defense this season. Who do you figure thinks to be the best of the bunch?
Julian Mitchell: This is a tough choice, but I believe it’s Yusuf Corker. He’s the “always around the ball” safety that you want on your team that isn’t afraid to pop someone. There’s a solid argument that UK would have held on in the 29-21 loss to Florida last season if Corker hadn’t been ejected for targeting in the first half. Kentucky led 21-10 in the 4th quarter.
Chris Novak: I’m going to go with Josh Paschal. You might know of Paschal because of the fact that he came back a season ago after successfully battling melanoma. All Paschal did was become something of a terror on the field, finishing the year with 3.5 sacks and 9.5 TFL. I think he stands out as a bit of a bold choice for me, but I really liked his game and the way that he played down the stretch last year.
Josh Rothenberg: I’ll take Jamar “Boogie” Watson for this one. The team leader in tackles for loss, Watson is surrounded by talent on defense, which should allow him to wreak havoc from the edge. With such a stout secondary, Watson will have all the time in the world to get after the QB this year, and that should result in more sacks and big plays from the senior linebacker.
4. Asim Rose had 826 yards on just 149 carriers a season ago. Do you think he gets to 1,000 this year?
Julian Mitchell: I can’t see it with the return of a passing threat and the possibility of 10 games being the maximum amount played. Rose going for 1,000 would be an impressive feat that I feel like would require injuries from the other running backs that are just as good, if not better.
Chris Novak: It will absolutely be tough because of the shortened slate and the competition he’ll face and just the overall variety of backs. But I do think Rose has the talent to do it. I can see him finishing just shy of it, but it will not surprise me one bit if he makes it happen.
Josh Rothenberg: He could do it, but I don’t think he gets enough carries to make it happen in a shortened season. It should still be a great year for Rose though!
5. What is your prediction for Kentucky this season?
Julian Mitchell: I understand if you scream “bias!” at me. I genuinely see 7-3, however.
Chris Novak: 6-4, with room to go 7-3 at best case.
Josh Rothenberg: It’s a tough schedule, but I think 6-4 is doable